Thoughts on Kindle Textbook Creator

Kindle textbook creator

Earlier this year, Amazon rolled out a beta version of The Kindle Textbook Creator. It’s still too soon to tell exactly what impact this might have upon the digital textbook world, but it’s hard not to pay attention when Amazon does something new. TechCrunch (“Amazon’s New Kindle Textbook Creator Takes A Different Approach From iBooks Author”) has a useful rundown:

“it lets authors prepare electronic textbooks for students, for publication across Fire tablets, Android devices, iPhones and iPads, Mac and PCs. It’s kind of like iBooks Author for Apple and iTunes U, but it uses PDFs of existing texts as a starting point and offers over-the-top digital features for Kindle-based consumption.”

So far, Kindle Textbook Creator (which is a free app) has a fairly basic feature set — highlighting, notebooks, a rudimentary flashcard feature, and dictionaries — but I wonder about who the intended user base really is. The digital textbook market is obviously dominated by the Big Three, and perhaps the motivation lies in simply being able to provide a tool for the longer tail market of smaller publishing companies and another option for the self publishing education crowd**.

The fact that Kindle Textbook Creator works across multiple platforms is a good thing. And as TechCrunch notes from the above article, perhaps the most important takeaway at the moment is the differentiated approach between Kindle Textbook Creator and iBooks Author: “Apple’s iBooks Author tool tries to convince educators to go digital-first, while Amazon’s says bring whatever you’ve already got to the table to help us expand our education market reach.” Having experienced firsthand how publishers continue to struggle with what to do with their textbooks that exist only in flat PDF format, this seems like another step in the right direction towards making digital textbooks a more relevant option.

The Digital Reader (“Kindle Textbook Creator Now Lets You Embed Audio & Video”) notes that the most recent Kindle Textbook Creator update allows for embedding of video and audio files, and table of contents creation — but in terms of overall user interface and features, it still falls a bit short of Apple’s iBooks Author.*

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*Also worth reading for thoughts on Apple’s edtech strategy and marketshare: “About that Impending Amazon-Apple Digital Textbook War,” including this part, which gave me something to think about the different philosophies of hardware vs. content:

ipad vs chromebook

“Speaking of ‘war’, exactly whose content would Amazon and Apple be fighting with?

As Flavorwire pointed out, there’s a lot of money in textbooks. But what they missed was that little of that money is spent through retail ebookstores like iBooks and Kindle; in fact, as Kno (bankrupt), Coursesmart (failed), and Inkling (pivoted to serving publishers) have shown us, there’s not enough of a retail digital textbook market to support even small startups.”

** Speaking of Amazon’s self-publishing options, did you know there is even a Kindle Comic Creator? It’s very smart of Amazon to try many different angles for the self-publishing market. Bleeding Cool (“Kindle Your Comics — A Guide To Amazon’s New Comic Creator”) has an excellent writeup of the pros and cons.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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